A workmanlike appreciation of John Francis (``Neutron Jack'') Welch, whose convulsive stewardship has, at no small cost, transformed General Electric from an archetypally bureaucratic corporation into a lean, mean enterprise. Drawing on disclosure documents and secondary sources, as well as on limited access to his reserved subject, Time correspondent Slater (Warrior Statesman, 1991, etc.) sets the stage with a rundown on the multinational colossus that Thomas Edison helped found in 1878. Slater also provides background on how Welch (who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering) climbed the organizational ladder at GE; but the author's focus is on how the CEO has radically (some say ruthlessly) restructured GE since taking the helm in 1981. By Slater's account, Welch is a combative, confrontational risk-taker who pays little heed to the constraints of the past in his zeal to ensure that GE ranks number one or two in its selected businesses (aircraft engines, appliances, financial services, lighting products, medical systems, plastics, TV broadcasting, etc.). Slater doesn't flinch from recording Welch's less-successful ventures. He questions the blockbuster acquisition of RCA/NBC at a time when the audience for network TV was in obvious decline; the divestiture of GE's housewares division (which had put the company's logo in millions of homes); and the purchase of an 80% stake in Kidder Peabody just before Wall Street's fortunes took a turn for the worse. The author also faults Welch for his brusque approach to downsizing (which cost thousands of jobs), but gives him full marks for empowerment programs that have made remaining workers vastly more productive and for sales/earnings results that speak for themselves. A balanced, interpretive progress report on a world-class business leader whose career story remains to be told in full.